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Sen. Reed: White House Blocking Petraeus From Pursuing ‘New Direction’ In Iraq

Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, has repeatedly said that the United States must wait until September to assess the success of the President’s escalation policy in Iraq. Last month, Petraeus said it was “premature right now” to discuss the way forward in Iraq.

But yesterday on C-SPAN, Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI), who recently returned from a trip to Iraq, suggested that those comments aren’t Petraeus’s real views. Rather, he is shilling for the administration. “I got the impression from Gen. Petraeus that he wasn’t waiting” until September to reassess the Iraq policy. “Now he might be overruled by people in the White House and, you know, wait until September. But he seemed very eager to come forward as quickly as possible with a new direction and policy.” Watch it:

[flv http://video.thinkprogress.org/2007/07/reedpetraeusdirection.320.240.flv]

The Bush administration has consistently used Petraeus as a “political prop,” as Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) has noted. Bush has mentioned Petraeus “at least 150 times this year in his speeches, interviews and news conferences.” In May, the White House used Petraeus as a PR flack to promote its war czar.

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Today the Washington Post notes that some members of the military are worried that “the general is being set up by the Bush administration as a scapegoat if conditions in Iraq fail to improve. ‘The danger is that Petraeus will now be painted as failing to live up to expectations and become the fall guy for the administration,’ one retired four-star officer said.”

Transcript:

REED: That’s one report I think that bears on this debate. The second, as you point out, is the benchmark reports coming out of Iraq, which shows, on the surface, mixed progress. But when you probe beneath, the real critical issues — very little or no progress at all on the political issues. The legal actions by the Iraqi government to redistribute oil profits, to incorporate more of the Sunni community into the government, no progress at all.

And I was there last week, and the prospect of anything changing over the next several weeks or months, certainly through September, is very bleak indeed. So we’re ready, I think, for a vote on the policy. I don’t think we have to wait.

I got the impression from Gen. Petraeus that he wasn’t waiting. Now he might be overruled by people in the White House and, you know, wait until September. But he seemed very eager to come forward as quickly as possible with a new direction and policy.